FIRST and LAST DAYS
Recollections of the Darkest and Brightest Periods of the War
FROM my diary: “Henry made thisspeech *to a packed house. Arthur Balfour told Cambon that it was the finest thing he had ever heard. I never saw him so worked up in my life.
Most people thought Grey might be going to speak, but after his wonderful statement he could not speak again. Grey was exceptionally fine, but a speech of such vital importance in which you are both explaining and defending your actions has to be most carefully prepared. Henry told me he had not prepared one word, but only jotted down the headings.
“I drove back from the House with dear old Harry Chaplin**,he dropped me in his taxi at 10 Downing Street.
‘“I am proud, my dear, to be seen with you. If any one had told me that any Prime Minister could have come to this House and asked for a vote of credit of a hundred million and got a unanimous vote I should have said the thing was impossible. I’m not saying it because I am an old pal, but, my dear Mrs. Asquith, I think—and I am not the only one—that your husband is the most remarkable man living. He and Grey have started this war in a memorable way.’
“While on this subject, I will quote here a letter from Queen Alexandra, which my husband received some months later:
“Marlborough House, “February 2nd, 1915. '
“My dear Mr. Asquith:
“I cannot besilent after reading your magnificent speech, which went straight to every Englishman’s heart. It was out and out the finest you ever made because it was the plain truth and a fearless unvarnished statement of Great Britain’s policy during the present life and death struggle, with the most treacherous and unscrupulous enemy. It will simply do us a power of good in the eyes of the whole world and all parties in the land agree with you, and look up to you for your noble words and fearless action.
“May God help and bless us, in our righteous cause and believe me, dear Mr. Asquith,
“On August 9th, 1914, I was sent for to go to Buckingham Palace by Lady Ampthill, a delightful woman, to ask if I would be on the Queen’s committee for needle-work. I said yes. Lady Bertha Dawkins gave me tea. They all seemed cheerful, I felt very low myself.
French Leaves for the Front
“10th August, 1914.
“T WENT to our first meeting at the Palace. 4.30 p.m.
1 is an infernal hour. I wanted to be in the House of Commons as every day something of interest happens. I ran in early to ask the Queen to let me off. I found her in blue velvet, chiffon and pearls waiting for her ladies, none of whom had arrived though it was 4.30. I asked her if I might go to the House and return in half an hour, which I did. Princess Mary was on my left, then the Queen, and next to me on my right was Lady Lansdowne. I observed Lady Northeliffe, May Harcourt and Mrs. Spender. Everyone spoke at once. I suggested each of us should be responsible for something definite and said I myself and my women Liberals in the country would make surgical shirts for the soldiers.
“When I returned to Downing Street Lord French was waiting to say good-bye to me.
“He took my two hands and whispered:
“ T shall never, never forget you.’ I heard him say, ‘Well, Sir,’. . . as he shut the door which divides Henry’s room from mine.
When the Bad News Came
“11th August, 1914.
“CIR EDWARD GOSCHEN lunched (our Ambassador ^ in Berlin). He told us amazing things of thebarbaric brutality of the Germans in Berlin. They had assaulted and hurt several members of the Russian Embassy as they left, and beaten the first secretary and his American wife over their heads and spat in their faces. The German soldiers had held up the special train with the French ambassador and suite in it and demanded 200 Lin goldthen made each sit in the centre of a different carriage daring them to move or look out of the windows or they would shoot them. German soldiers stood at the door of each corridor carriage with loaded revolvers in their handsT was more fortunate,’ he said, ‘as the Berlin mob only broke all the windows of the British Embassy, so that the Kaiser had to apologize to me—’
•On the Declaration of War with Germany. ••Lord Chaplin.
w . wir I'. OF THE F O R M E R R E M I E R
“August 24th, 1914.
“Henry came into my room looking very grave.
“Henry:—‘Bad news, the Germans have taken Namur. We’ve been driven back with the French. Terrible fighting since Saturday. Only one name “dangerously wounded”—• young Lord Leven. We shall have an awful list of casualities; I cannot understand how Namur can have fallen if it’s as strongly fortified as we are told. The position now is very serious—I must go and see K., then we have a cabinet.’
“I saw at once that Henry was terribly upset. It came like a thunderclap to me. The very first time our fresh and wonderful force were in battle to have to retreat; Henry told me K. had cursed and sworn and that he (Henry) much feared the French had been out-generalled by the Germans and only wondered if our lot had been in any way cut off.
“A black day.
“General Cowans lunched:
“ ‘I expect we’ve lost about 6,000 men all told, if so it’s very good.’
Would this be con-
“Margot:—(Appalled): sidered goodV “GeneralCowans:—
‘Certainly—the losses my dear Mrs. Asquith will be tremendous in this war. I’m very very much araid those brave French have been reckless.’
“After lunch we had an agonizing day. Sir John French’s wire, which Henry read to me in the morning, said our men had reluctantly retreated and they seem to have been retreating ever since. The retreat was wonderfully
executed, we hear, but we know nothing. All that afternoon we waited, wonderingif our poor fellows had been cut off—it seemed so cruel that our small and perfect army— all fresh, strong, made keen and full of dancingexcitement— should have entered into their first battle in a European war about which they have always dreamt, and been ordered to retire.
The Story of a Cypher Message
npHERE is a perfect silence in Downing Street, but I see by Henry’s face that he thinks some terrible blunder has been made. We waited till 2 a.m. for news, sitting like people in a Maeterlinck play, Arthur Asquith, myself, a friend of Cys’s, in khaki, the Harcourts, my friend Sir Ernely Blackwell from the Home Office, Sir C. Mathews, Public Prosecutor, our two secretaries, Bongie and Eric Drummond. Anxious minister after minister called to ask for news.
“Drummond (to Henry) ¡—‘They say a dispatch has come in, sir, and is being deciphered at the War Office.’
“Fearful excitement. Henry went down to the cabinet room. I stood on the stair. Groups of officials, secretaries and ministers waiting—no news. At Henry’s request Eric rushed across to the War Office—He returned —No K. there—No deciphered message, it had gone to K.—but where was K.?
“Why did he have a bed and bath put into the War Office if he doesn’t sleep there?
“Someone: T hear he was dining with Arthur Balfour.’
“Another: ‘He won’t make Arthur sit up after 11 o’clock.’
“An Authority: ‘Lady Wantage has lent him her house. Telephone there.’
“This was done, confused answers on telephone— irritable talk. . .
“Eric: ‘Hullo! Hullo! I’m the Prime Minister’s secretary—who? who? Yes, the butler—all right—tell Lord Kitchener the Prime Minister wants to see the message from General French atonce—Hullo’—(to all of us listening, ‘Oh, d—n! he’s not the butler and he has gone.’
“After much irritation and various men being sent off in all directions, I joined Henry; he was alone in the cabinet room.
“Henry (very angry): ‘Tell Bongie or Drummond to go to K. and say I must have the despatch at once. D—d cheek! I won’t let this happen again.’
“The telegram read:
‘ ‘ ‘Loss of over 2,000— fighting since Saturday, 22nd but all in line
“A sigh of re-
lief. At any rate the flower of the British Army has n been cut off; the lines of communication are still ope
In the Dark Days
“TITE SPENT Sunday, August 30th, 1914,at Lympn
* » We were becalmed and exhausted from the stra of that agonizing week. We have been fighting since tl 22nd, and have received none of the names of the dead wounded. This is terrible.
“A telegram from Poincaré—K. has gone to France have a talk with Sir John French. I can see everyone upset, but Henry will not tell me much. Something seria has happened—even K. looked worried—no one is to kne he is in France—even at the War Office they do not kno
“Sept. 3rd., 1914.
“Henry came into my sitting-room while we were waitii for lunch through the folder-doors, and said: ‘Nothii can be more serious than our position, indeed the whe situation at the front. . . The French Government h left Paris and gone to Bordeaux’.
“On September 8th, 1914, I copied this telegram fro our Paris Ambassador, Sir Frances Bertie, from Bordeai for my diary:
‘September 8th, 1914, Secret.
“ ‘A French Minister at Bucharest has been informi secretly that the German Kaiser has written to King Rumania that from report of German generals Germs troops will have crushed Franco-British forces in 20 days he will then leave 5,000,000 German troops in occupati' of France and will turn his attention to Russia.’ ”
A Visit to the Front
TTENRY and I went to stay with George Curzon -*-*• meet the Queen of the Belgians. She was surpris after dinner when I told her I thought the war would l¿ over two years.
She asked me to go and stay with her.
I met a charming handsome Scotchman—Major Gordi —secretary to the Duke of Wellington.
I spend an uncomfortable night at the Lord Wardt Hotel, Dover, on Dec. the 10th, 1914. Major Gordii and I went in the Admiralty boat—Princess Victoria/ to Dunkirk at 7 a.m. on the 11th. I was too sick to ss anything; the Captain told me that the mines and fearf submarines had made us an hour late.
It was arctic cold, but I had sensible clothes—leather breeches, waistcoat, and coat, a silk jersey over a silk blouse, and blue serge skirt, a little black Belgian soldier forage cap and civet cat spotted coat, muff and boa, high gaiters and St. Moritz overshoes. All ugly but business-like.
We took ages to get through the locks into Dunkirk harbor. We were met by a Belgian chauffeur and the best big Bentz motor I’ve ever driven in, smooth and powerful. Our Belgian drove us at a shattering pace.
Major Gordon was more than careful and resourceful, quite unfussy but thinking of everything.
We dashed off to Milly Sutherland’s hospital.
It was crowded with wounded; among them some beautiful Arabs and Moors. The dumb, distant expression in their mysterious eyes filled me with pity.
We left them and went to the headquarters of the Belgian Army. There we saw Tom Bridges, the heart and soul of the Belgian Army, and a remarkable man.
He gave us our passwords and passports, etc. “Antoine” from ’6 p.m. to 6 a.m. and “Cassel” from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Disgusting lunch in foul restaurant at Furnes.
A Night in Dunkirk
WE ARRIVED about 4 o’clock in drenching rain at La Panne, where the King’s household received me very cordially in a small sea-side wooden and brick villa built on the sand dunes. The villa was like a lodginghouse in Littlestone—pegs for hats and coats in tiny hall with straight short wooden stair and no carpet. It was two storeys high and held seven of us, two servants, one housemaid and one cook.
Countess Caraman Cimey, the only lady-in-waiting, is a clever woman with a great deal of nature. The Master of the House, M. Davreaux, a cavalry officer, helped to see my things into a hideous, uncomfortable bedroom.
We all messed in the kitchen—I may say the only room (except a warm open-fired smoking-room) in the house.
I was relieved not to have to walk in the rain 200 yards to dine with the King, the first night of my arrival, as I was very tired.
We dined in fur coats, skirts and shirts, and all went to bed at 9.15 p.m. after quite an amusing talk on various topics.
My big, bald bedroom had neither curtains, blinds or shutters, and I put on a jersey over my flannel nightgown. One set of windows looked on to a sort of sand railway, covered with trucks and scattered villas, and the other on to the sea. Telephone and telegraph wires connected all the villas—glass doors opening on to small brick paths and the whole place exposed to howling gales. Luckily for me it was a glorious morning and I shall not easily forget the beauty of the beach. Sand. . . . nothing but sand, and thin ice-white lines of flat and frothy waves so far out that no tide looked as if it could ever bring them nearer.
Regiments and detachments of soldiers of every kind and color, coming and going on the beach—chiefly cavalry. A long troop of Moors,
“Goumiers” as they call them, rode past in twos and twos, mounted on white, grey and bay Arabs, tattooing some odd instrument; though picturesque, they looked ineffectual.
I Meet King Albert
AT 1.30 (12th December) the general took me across the narrow brick paths through the dunes to the King’s villa to lunch. My coat was taken off by two tall footmen in black and I was shown into the only sitting-room. A tall young man was studying a map leaning on a low mantel-piece. He turned round and shook hands and we sat down and began talking. I thought to myself,
‘You are extraordinarily like your King.’ I have observed that court people take on the look of their Kings and Queens, imitation being the sincerest form of flattery. It was not till he congratulated me on having a remarkable husband and alluded in touching terms to Henry’s speech on him and Belgium, that I suspected anything. I instantly got up and curtsied, at which he smiled rather sadly, and, the Queen coming into the room, we all went into lunch.
We had soup, roast beef, and potatoes and a coffee sweet on cold plates, which seemed unnecessary as there were large fires. I found the King delightful, so wise, uncomplaining and absolutely real, no swagger, and keen and interested. I told him I had bought several photo-
graphs of him to sign but they all had dark hair. He said it was clever of the photographer to give him hair as he was getting balder every day, and that he felt everything about him was dark and bald.
He told me among other things that the Germans had trained off to Germany all his wife’s.clothes and all his own wine: “As I drink nothing this is no loss.”
The Graves of First Heroes
AFTER lunch M. Davreux, Major Gordon and I motored to the Belgian trenches and to Pervyse station. We passed a dead horse lying in a pool of blood. We heard guns on the road, the first I had ever heard in my life. The sound thrilled me; we saw a fleet of aeroplanes hovering like birds in a pale sky.
A long convoy of men, with straggling trees on their backs, going to hide artillery, marched past our car. . . . The country for miles around was inundated with sea water and the roads, where they were not pave, were swamps of clinging mud—the only dry fields were full of holes and looked like solitaire boards. The houses all smashed—no inhabitants, but a few soldiers smoking or cooking in the open doorways. Every church littered with bits of bombs and debris of stained glass, twisted lead ribbons and broken arms of the outstretched Christ.
Major Gordon had taken a wooden cross out with him to put on the grave of the Duke of Richmond’s son, and I had been asked to take one out by the Lansdownes for their son’s grave. We motored to Ypres. The cemetery there will haunt me till I die. No hospital of wounded or dying ever could have given me a greater insight into war than that damp, crowded, quiet churchyard. There were bits of wood at the head of the huddled graves with names scrawled in pencil on them—mostly English. Where the names had been washed off forage caps were hung. I saw a Tommy digging. I said to him, “Who is that for?” and he answered without stopping, “For the next.” Two English officers with their caps in their hands were standing by the side of an open grave. Major Gordon, with a spade in his hand, asked me if I would help him; I held the cross and thought of the poor Lansdownes. Suddenly a fusillade of guns burst upon our ears. It seemed as if some of the bombs must hit us—they were so close and loud; aeroplanes hovered over our heads, and the soldiers in the cemetery rushed off.
An excited Belgian officer, with a few soldiers, ran up to me, and pointing to a mound said would I not like to see the German guns as one could only die once.
Frightfully excited and almost deafened by the crack! crack\ boom booml I tore up to the top of the hill, the officer holding my arm. Had it not been for a faint haze I could have seen the bombs distinctly. Thin white lines of smoke in a row like poplars stood out against the sky and I saw the flash of every gun. My companions explained that if the shells had been coming our way they would have gone over our heads—the Germans must have come
on in the night, and my officer added he did not think that either the Belgians, the British, or the French knew at all what they were up to. A French officer, looking angry, came up to me and said I was to go under the shelter of the hospital walls immediately. Some Tommies asked me if I was not afraid—I said not more than they were, at which we all smiled and shrugged our shoulders—and the French officer took me off to the hospital quadrangle,
where I waited for Gordon, who had taken the Duke of Richmond’s cross to another cemetery.
The guns made every window in the hospital rattle till I thought they must break. I sat in our motor, writing my diary. A French sentry came up and gave me his stomach belt of blue cashmere. I thanked him warmly and gave him some boxes of Woodbine cigarettes, of which I had brought an enormous quantity. A Belgian Tommy, after watching me for some time, took off his white belt and gave it to me. I began to think Gordon was killed as he had been away from me for over an hour. When he returned his face was bathed in perspiration. He told me he had put the Duke of Richmond’s cross on his son’s grave in a cemetery close to the German lines.
We stopped on our way to Merville at Major Gordon’s brother-in-law’s house at the side of the road, and had tea in the kitchen.
Within Range of the Guns
WE HAD not been at the table more than a few minutes when a loud sound like hissing made the whole house rock. An aide-de-camp dashed out of the room and came back scarlet in the face.
“If you please, sir,” he said, saluting, “four Jack Johnsons have dropped thirty yards from the door.”
General Nicholson jumped up white as a sheet and said to his brother-in-law, “Great God, what will the Prime Minister say? I’ve let you in, Gordon—I assure you, Mrs. Asquith, we’ve not had a shell or shot here for weeks.”
I asked him why the Germans wasted ammunition on such a desolate inundated spot, to which he replied:
“Pure accident, but let me tell you if there had been no water, not a brick in this cottage would have remained above ground, and neither you nor I would have had an eye-lash left!. . . No, Dopp, give us the tea.”
I sat down to dinner that night, the only woman among twenty men, as General Sir Henry Rawlinson’s guest.
On the 14th of December, 1914, we left Merville at 7.30 for Havre. I looked at the sea and made up my mind that nothing would induce me to spend twelve hours on it.
I told Gordon we must motor back to Boulogne; being the best of men he raised no objection. We started at 7 a.m. the next morning, arrived at 2.30, and got back to London at 8.30 the same night, the 15th of December, 1914.
When the Armistice was Signed
FROM my diary:
“In 1914, everyone speculated as to how long the war would last, and bets were freely made and taken. I wish I had kept a careful record of what our generals: told me in Downing Street at that time, for although their predictions varied, I never met one who thought it would; last a year. Most of the good French sayings that I know are attributed either to Voltaire or Talleyrand, but whoever the author may be, one of the best of them is: ‘La guerre est trop sérieuse pour la laisser aux militaires/ “Early in the London season of 1918, I betted Mr.
Selfridge one hundred pounds that the war would be over before Christmas. He scoffed at the idea, and so did everyone else, but as they were the same people who, having started by thinking the fighting would be over in a few months, ended by saying it would go on for ever, I might have doubled my stake. I never knew how easily one’s mind can form bad habits, but I think freshness of outlook and elasticity are rare. In consequence of these habits, thereis no opinion however stupid, or environment however vile, that people cannot get acclimatized to.
“If it is difficult to live up to the blessings one is accustomed to, it is easy to let one’s sensibilities thicken, and when my daughter, Elizabeth Bibesco, ran in to my bed-room on the night of the 10th of November, 1918, to tell me that the war was over, I felt as numb as a piano with dumb notes in it. The strain of four years either waiting for or receiving telegrams which were matters of life or death had blunted my susceptibilities and the news did not seem to penetrate.
“A friend of ours at the War Office, Sidney Russel Cooke, had rung up 20, Cavendish Square to tell Elizabeth that the Germans had signed the Armistice. I got out of bed and went into Henry’s room and found him reading. We were all three too excited to sleep, and sat talking together over the probable terms of peace till far into the morning. On Monday the 11th ofj¡November, 1918, I had my tea as usual, after a short night, at G in the morning. Henry came into my room before he went downstairs to breakfast to say the news that we had heard was inaccurate, and
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The First and Last Days
Continued from page 21
the Germans had not signed. I felt no surprise, but went on dressing; a few moments after he left me my beloved American friend, Paul Cravath, rang me up to say the Germans had signed the armistice at 5.30 that morning and the war was over.
I ran downstairs and ordered as many
flags as could be bought for the house, the motor and the servants. I wrote three telegrams and signed them “Margot Henry Asquith”—the first to the King, the second to Queen Alexandra and the third to General Sir John Cowans. Odd noises began to burst upon our ears from the streets. Faint sounds of music—
guns, maroons, cheering and the “British Grenadiers.” I looked out of my window into Cavendish Square and saw some elderly nurses in their uniforms and men and women clasping each other round the waist and dancing in the middle of the street.
“It was a beautiful day. We had to go to a funeral at Hampstead—a cremation, which I had never seen before—and we motored to Golder’s Green directly after breakfast. When a handsome casket disappears mechanically through slow folding doors in a wall, I confess the beauty of the Burial Service is strangelymarred, but our thoughts were at Versailles. Driving back, wecould see the progress that the great news had madejas flags were flying from every window. The men putting them up were waving their hands from the tops of high ladders and ordinary pedestrians were dancing breakdowns or forming into rings of merrygo-rounds—a more innocent and spontaneous break-out of gaiety could not have been imagined. I have often wondered since if any of the allies on the Day of the Armistice gave way to such simple explosions.
“On our return to 20, Cavendish Square, we found that our clever butler, Clouder, had smothered the house in flags: he told me that there were ‘queues’ outside every shop where they were to be bought and that it would be impossible to move later on as already the big streets were jammed with every kind of vehicle packed with shouting people. I ordered the motor and went out to see the crowd.
Telegrams to Mr. Asquith
WE RECEIVED a great many telerams congratulating Henry on the part he had played in the deliverance of his country in the first years of the war. The three that interested me most I have got in front of me now: one was from the King, one from Queen Alexandra, and one from my little son.
“Henry had tears in his eyes when^he gave me this telegram :
“ T thank you both with all my heart. I look back with gratitude to your wise counsel and calm resolve in the days when great issues had to be decided resulting in our entrance into the war, which now, thank God, has been brought to an end.
“ ‘Loving thanks, everything kind to your dear husband and children.
“ ‘ALEXANDRA.’ ”
“ ‘Blessings and love, my darling mother. Do you know this from Euripides, “The things that must be are so strangely
“At 2.30 Henry and I went to the House of Commons to hear Lloyd George read the terms of the Armistice, after which we were all to go to St. Margaret’s, Westminster.
“To my surprise, I found the Gallery uncrowded and I wished profoundly I had taken my Elizabeth with me as I never enjoy anything to the same degree without her or Anthony.3
“I pressed my forehead into my two hands with my elbows on the rail of the Speakers’ Gallery while I listened to the terms of the Armistice.
“Both Henry and the Prime Minister received a hearty cheer as they walked into the House.
“A wave of compassion came over me as I heard the terms.
“I knew—as we all did—that had the Germans beaten us their terms would have been harsher, and being a race with thicker skins, it would have lain in their power to humiliate as well as to punish us, but all this did not prevent my feeling for the first time that ‘Love Thine Enemy’ was not an impossible command. The vast German fleet—which I had often told our governess Frau would be the undoing of her c >untry—was to be given over to our Gr.i.i;! Fleet; to sail into Rosyth Harbor without a struggle; one by one their battleships were to go between the lines of our men-of-war with their decks cleared for action and every gun pointing at their surrender. Our Armies were to occupy many of the towns of importance in Germany and the German generals and soldiers were to surrender on every front. The French were to occupy both sides of the
Before the Royal Balcony ITHEN I left the House of Commons VV to walk across to St. Margaret’s, the crowd was dense: I had almost to fight my way in the street, but being known by the police, I succeeded at last in getting Into my place. The service had been improvised at a moment’s notice and was wonderfully done. The Peers and Commons sat in the centre of the church and all the women in the side pews. The Archbishop read the service finely, and my wedding hymn was sung, ‘0 God, our help in ages past.’ I found my thoughts wandering all the time over the terms of the Armistice and wondered what sort of prayers the Germans were praying and to what God—the God of Peace, or the God of War.
“My beautiful nieces, Laura Lovât and Diana Cowper, had tea with me and told me they had spent several hours in the morning outside BuckinghamPalace,where the crowd had gathered the moment the maroons informed the public that the war was over. They said everyone in London, both poor and fashionable, were standing in the crowd.
“It was raining and dark when I arrived at the Palace; the King and Queen were on the balcony, where they had been since eleven in the morning, looking at the vast black crowd below them. Everyone was singing some patriotic song, but most of them hymns, and snatches of “God Save the King”beingplayed on amateur instruments. All the W.A.A.C.’s and the W.R.E.N.’s were parading in close formation in front of one of the Palace doors and female soldiers, policemen and agriculturists were everywhere to be seen. I paused to look up at the royal family, much to the annoyance of theGeneralsandCommanderin-Chief. Women are ruder than men in a crowd and I was soon hustled out of the way. I took refuge with the King of Portugal in the Palace and saw dear Lord Stamfordham. I embraced him warmly and congratulated him on his services, but neither he nor I could speak for tears. The knowledge that to many the end of the war could not mean the end of their mourning hung like a cloud over all thoughtful people.
“Two dazzling picture reflections illuminated the King and Queen. He wore his khaki uniform which I had never seen him out of since August, 1914, atid she wore a very smart day dress with diamonds and pearls on her comfy bosom. She has at all times a lovely smile and it was two very happy people the crowds were yelling at. Both the King and Queen smiled and bowed in acknowledgment to their peoples’ acclamations from 11 a.m. till past midnight and though it rained they only left the balcony for a short afternoon drive. I was sorry I missed seeing them but was told that the poor people and children hung on to their carriage and were not interfered with. Considering everyone was dancing and gay, I think the British public behaved extraordinarily
“On November 12th (1918), we went to the great Thanksgiving Service in St. Paul’s Cathedral.
The American Ambassador
“|N CONNECTION with services in 1 St. Paul’s, I would like to tell a story of the American Ambassador.
“On Friday, April the 20th, 1917, Henry, Elizabeth, Anthony and I went to:
“ ‘A Solemn Service to Almighty God on the Occasion of the Entry of the United States of America into the Great War for Freedom.’
“This solemn service was held in St. Paul’s Cathedral. The CXLIV Psalm was sung and the lesson chosen was Isaiah LXI to verse 9. It is such a beautiful passage that I shall quote it.
; “ ‘The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to reach good tidings unto the meek; He ath sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;
“ ‘To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn;
¿ “ ‘To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, "the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He might be /glorified.
“‘And they shall build the old wastes,
they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the waste cities, the desolations of many generations.
“ ‘And strangers shall stand and feed your flocks, and the sons of the alien shall be your plowmen and your vinedressers.
“ ‘But ye shall be named the Priests of the Lord; men shall call you the Ministers of our God; ye shall eat the riches of the Gentiles, and in their glory shall ye boast yourselves.
“ ‘For your shame ye shall have double; and for confusion they shall rejoice in their portion; therefore in their land they shall possess the double ; everlasting joy shall be unto them.
“ ‘For I, the Lord, love judgment, I hate robbery for burnt offering; and I will direct their work in truth, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them.
“ ‘And their seed shall be known among the Gentiles, and their offspring among the people; all that see them shall acknowledge them, that they are the seed which the Lord hath blessed.’
“Elizabeth wrote this description of the origin of the Thanksgiving service.
“April 22nd, 1917.
“Dearest Aunt Lucy,'
“The celebrations in honor of America’s entry into the war culminated at St. Paul’s yesterday. All the Royal Family were there, the corps diplomatique, Ministers, soldiers, sailors, etc., and the usual sprinkling of people pushing forward to the seats they think they are entitled to and being stopped by overjoyed officials whose one form of sport seems to consist in humiliating the hopeful on these great occasions.
“I couldn’t help thinking of dear Mr.— Page’s mot—I was dining with him about a week ago. He looked so tired and ill that it gave me quite a shock. The strain of the last two years has acted as a sort of scaffolding which now being taken away reveals for the first time how great it has been on him.
“I said to him—T love you much too much and you know me far too well to let me be the cause of any extra fatigue— I think you owe it to me to be silent if it would rest you.’
“To which he said—‘My dear, it isn’t talking to you that tires me but I have just received the representatives of ten American associations, each of which asked for a speech to be delivered in the Albert Hall so 'I said to them—“Gentlemen, we’re under the very serious temptation of making fools of ourselves. It is a temptation that we shall probably not resist. Now it seems to me that a service at St. Paul’s Cathedral would give us less opportunity than any other form of public ceremony!’
“It certainly only gave an opportunity to one man—the Bishop—and he took it. But what makes me happier than anything now is the triumph of Mr. Page. No one ever combined such fundamental ardour and longing with such loyalty towards America and its Government as he has observed during its neutrality. It is not often that you can choose your creditors, but I don’t think there is a person in Great Britain who ever came into contact with him that is not happy and proud to feel the debt we owe him. It would have been the same even if America had not come into the war, but now his work has been crowned with honor and we all adore him. “My love and blessings dearest Aunt Lucy.
“Every word that Elizabeth wrote was true. Mr. Page was one of God’s own. He was broken over the war.
We lunched with the King and Queen after the service on the 12th of November, 1918, and found them both in high spirits; she had tears in her eyes when I said:
“You ought to be a very proud woman to-day, ma’am, when all over Europe such sorrows are happening to rulers. You and His Majesty are happy, free and loved.
The King took my hand in both of his and said:
“No man ever had a better or wiser friend than I had and have in your husband.”
On the 18th of November, 1918, Henry spoke on the Address of Congratulation to the King:
“I am sure that the whole House will desire to associate itself with the admirable words in which my right honorable friend has moved this Address, and with the terms of the Address itself. When
history comes to tell the tale of these four years, it will recount a story the like of which Ls not to be found in any epic in any I literature. It is and will remain by itself i as a record of everything humanity can dare or endure—of the extremes of possible heroism and, we must add, of possible baseness, and, above and beyond all, the slow moving but in the end irresistible power of a great ideal. The old world has been laid waste. Principalities and Powers, to all appearances inviolable and invincible, which seemed to dominate a large part of the families of mankind, lie j in the dust. All things have become new. In this great and cleansing purging it has been the privilege of our country to play her part, a part worthy of a people who have learned themselves beforehand the lesson to practise the example of ordered freedom. The time has not come to distribute praise as between those who, in civil life and naval and military action, have won this great victory. But as my right honorable friend has well said, we can anticipate that task by rendering at once a heartfelt, unstinted tribute to the occupant of the Throne. I had the privilege to be Prime Minister when His Majesty ascended the Throne, and I continued to hold that office until more than two years had passed of the progress of the war. There is no one that can bear testimony—first-hand testimony — more authentic or more heartfelt than I do to the splendid example which His Majesty has set in time of peace, as well as in time of war, in the discharge of everyone, day by day, of the responsible duties which fall to the Sovereign of this Empire. In the crash of thrones, built, some of them, on unrighteousness, propped up in other cases by a brittle framework of convention, the Throne of this country stands unshaken, broad-based on the people’s will. It has been reinforced to a degree which it is impossible to measure, a living example of our Sovereign and his gracious Consort, who have always felt and shown by their life and by their conduct that they are there not to be ministered unto but to minister. As the right honorable gentleman said, monarchies in these days are held, if they continue to be held, not by the shadowy claim of any so-called divine right, not, as has been the case with the Hapsburgs and Hohenzollerns, by any power of dividing and dominating popular forces and popular will, not by pedigree and not by traditions: they are held, and can only be held, by the highest form of public service, by understanding, by sympathy with the common lot and by devotion to the common weal. There are some lines of one of our old poets which are perhaps worth recalling, as they sum up and express the feelings of many of us to-day:
‘The glories of our blood and State,
Are shadows, not substantial things.
There is no armour against fate,
Death lays his icy hand on kings.’
“And at the end of these fine lines he adds, what we in these testing times in Great Britain have seen and proved to be the secret and the safeguard of our Monarchy:
‘Only the actions of the just’*'! Smell sweet and blossom in the dust.’”